As the trade deadline approaches, no time is more fun to play armchair GM. Its easy to swap underperforming players and picks like trading cards and instantly transform the team into a playoff power house. This enjoyable little exercise usually leads to us giving a deeper examination to the value of prospects and roster players we could see being moved for a deadline upgrade.
Prospects were once traded with relative anonymity and by the time they blossomed into stars, we had probably forgotten what organization originally drafted them (I know I had long forgotten that Adam Graves was originally a Red Wings draft pick). Today, we can follow the career of a young player from the junior hockey/college ranks, even some in prep school. This type of access allows us, as fans, to form bonds with these players and the potential impact that they may have some day. Just like children, everyone loves their own kids more than anyone else’s and this is an especially important concept come prime trading times.
Let me preface this by saying that I am tremendously excited for the future of the Rangers organization. They have drafted and traded well over the past 5+ years and the system is starting to bear the fruit of that work. There is serious prospect depth in the minors/juniors and we have seen homegrown stars in Marc Staal, Dan Girardi and Ryan Callahan come into their own right before our eyes. Players like Brandon Dubinsky and Michael Del Zotto have found success at the NHL level and Carl Hagelin has made an immediate impact since his call up. Also, we can’t leave out everyone’s favorite 7th round draft pick, Henrik Lundqvist.
We all like to envision every member of the farm system representing another piece in an all homegrown Rangers Stanley Cup champion. After all, young, cost-controlled players with upside are the best way to manage the cap and avoid the potential albatross deals that have been something of a blight on Glen Sather’s record. From a practical standpoint however, one of the biggest benefits of a strong farm system is the ability to trade from an area of strength to shore up weaknesses on the big club. As Dave has astutely pointed out in his Scouting the Deadline series, it is important to be able to accurately value these assets and make a business decision about whether to proceed with a given move.
What we all need to remember is that prospects are essentially lottery tickets. We have all lived through our fair share of first round busts, and unfortunately the vast amount of players simply don’t live up to their ceiling. Take Chris Krieder, for example. Every scouting report I have ever read about him says his physical gifts are truly elite. On the other hand, there are serious concerns about his hockey IQ and awareness/anticipation on the ice. Now, this obviously isn’t to say he cannot succeed or be every bit as effective as his skills will allow him to be. It’s just to say that he is not a known quantity at this point. Depending on the other pieces, I wouldn’t be opposed to including him in a trade for someone like Bobby Ryan for instance.
As the deadline draws near, the Rangers’ are in somewhat of a precarious position. Their window of contention is opening a little earlier than most expected, and it takes careful management not to overplay your hand and set your organizational development back. Stripping down the farm system for an elite player could potentially be that final piece that brings Lord Stanley back to Broadway, or it could mean losing several key pieces that could help achieve the same result in 2-3 years. This is the $64,000 question.
The ability to follow our teams prospects from the amateur ranks to The Show has added a new layer to hockey fandom. It helps give up a more three-dimensional look at the management of the organization and it’s a lot of fun to see where the next crop of great Rangers is going to come from. When it comes to evaluating moves or non-moves made this deadline season, it’s important not to hug prospects too tightly and look rather at the whether the move is good asset management and will help the team deliver its goal of raising the Stanley Cup in the very near future.